The World Book Night 2014 euphoria is still fresh in my mind as I write this.
This was my 3rd time sharing my love of reading and pressing books into the hands of strangers – and it was the best year yet. Instead of the train station, we opted for a pub crawl. Really, beer and books have a natural, alliterative relationship anyway. Four of us, wearing matching WBN shirts, hit the first tavern.
We got off to a slow start. We were hesitant to interrupt conversations and didn’t have any formal permission to embark on our mission, but we ordered our beers, set our books on the bar, took a deep breath and plunged in. I introduced the hostess to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, assuring her she’d love the insider’s look at the restaurant biz. She cracked it open immediately (as the restaurant wasn’t busy). I can’t express how rewarding it was to see her smile grow as she turned the pages. It gave us all the confidence to approach everyone else.
We quickly found our groove and gave away 80 books in a little over 2 hours in two pub/restaurants and a coffee shop, plus several pedestrians as we made our way down Madison Street. We stayed the longest at the Piggy Back Tavern, where we gave away books, sampled a great variety of draft beers and shared a delicious dinner. We took turns approaching families, individuals and staff members, offering our selections.
Of course there were a number of polite (and sometimes rude) “no’s,” but far more people got into the spirit of the night, asking us questions about the books and about WBN. Two interactions stand out:
As I made my way to a new table, the woman seated there looked at my shirt and said, “Oh, April 23, Book Night. When did that come to America?” I gave her the WBN background and she told me about the custom in Spain where you give a book and a flower to a loved one. I ended up chatting with her family and sharing Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Kitchen Confidential and The Ruins of Gorlan with them.
Then, at the end of the night, when we had only two books left, we were ready to give in. The bar had filled with mostly male Chicago Blackhawks fans (April 23 was also Game 4 in the Stanley Cup Playoff series vs. the St. Louis Blues – GO HAWKS!). None of us felt confident interrupting these fans with our book pitch. We noticed one fan talking to the bartender and pointing to all the customers around him with books in front of them. The bartender pointed out our table; the fan came over and I ended up convincing him to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, telling him he’d seem like a sensitive soul with the ladies.
World Book Night 2014 was awesome. I’m always a little reluctant/nervous to start but end up feeling so rewarded by sharing the love of reading. Strangers are so surprised that we’re offering something and asking nothing in return but that they try a new book. Many of these people stopped to thank us again before leaving. I also got such a kick out of sharing the experience live on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – connecting immediately to givers across the country.
Can’t wait for next year.